5 On Your Side

Brides in limbo after Raleigh shop locked up

Posted July 27, 2015 6:55 p.m. EDT

— Local brides are in limbo after the shop where they bought everything from bridal gowns to bridesmaids dresses appears to have suddenly shut down.

On Friday, the doors of La Belle Mariee, at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Millbrook Road in Raleigh, were locked when bride Joanne Wroblewski arrived.

"So, my dress, that I was supposed to pick up today is literally right there, and all I want to do is just go through this window right now and get it," Wroblewski said.

Rachel Stewart had a fitting scheduled, and she wanted to pick up dresses for her flower girls. Tiffany Palmer was hoping to get a refund after she never got the dress she paid for and ended up wearing a sample gown on her wedding day.

Up to 500 brides could be in limbo after doing business at La Belle Mariee, store manager Tiffany Ragston said.

It is a bit of deja vu, because the vice president of the shop, Kathy Purser, has been the subject of a similar story. In 2013, Purser owned Victorian Rose Bridals in Raleigh's Cameron Village shopping center, which was the subject of complaints about dresses that arrived late, in the wrong color, size or otherwise not as ordered.

Purser relocated last fall with a new name.

Ragston said she last talked with Purser on Thursday, when Purser changed the locks, saying former employees hadn't returned keys.

Ragston said Purser never showed up on Friday to open the store, but brides lined up outside. Through the windows, Ragston said she could see that Purser "cleared this entire place out – laptops, financial records, all the brides' records, name it. Anything that's paper is gone, except for her credit card statements.”

"She changed her phone number and blocked everybody off her Facebook," Ragston said.

Five On Your Side tried to reach Purser via her mobile phone, which is now disconnected, through an email to the store and in a visit to her home, which is listed for sale. There was no answer.

There was no answer and a for sale sign at the home of Purser's mother, Beverly Cray, who is the company president.

Rachel Stewart said it came as a complete surprise.

"Kathy actually texted me two days ago and promised us that our flower girl dresses would be here," she said.

She was able to get her bridal gown from the seamstress. Ragston gave Wroblewski and 15 other brides their dresses over the weekend, and she said she's working to get more than 70 dresses that were in the store to the brides who paid for them.

Ragston says anyone waiting for dresses should email her at tiffany@luminesquetravel.com, and she'll help if she can.

According to Ragston, many brides may lose their money because the designers were never paid, so dresses weren't shipped. Ragston says some dresses were never even ordered.